Opening Act is the newest darling of entertainment giant E! Entertainment. The push factor of this show lies in the fact that it picks its talents not from open auditions but from YouTube videos and allows them to turn into the opening act for big-name superstars like LMFAO, Lady Gaga, Rod Stewart and Jason Mraz. Nigel Lythgoe and his team of judges (namely Martina McBride, Nick Cooper, Pete Wentz and Jason DeRulo) promise big things to the winners but does the show really live up to its expectations? With mediocre opening episode ratings and over-calculated moves by the production team, it’s precariously lying in between a yay and a nay at the moment. Here’s why.
All freedom lies with the judges (& literally, all)
To look on the bright side of things to begin with, there’s no public voting. This eliminates the draggy result shows we’re all so used to by now and cuts the unnecessary oh-my-god-the-public-voted-out-the-wrong-contestant drama that gets real old, real fast. However, if you expected the judges to be totally impartial, a quality that the general public is constantly accused of lacking, this show will dash your hopes of impartiality. As with every talent show, it’s not just about the voice, it’s about the so-called “full package”. With the popularity of shows like Glee revolving around putting personal issues out into the open expressing “vulnerability” (a word highly overused by Ryan Murphy), Opening Act tries to do the same, with each episode containing the struggles of a particular individual or group. Also, when I say all freedom lies with the judges, I really mean ALL. Contestants are rarely allowed to express their own individuality as it might appear. Self-penned music is swiftly declared as not being “right” for an opening song and is replaced with a generic, easily marketable song written by the production team.
Hold the drama please
The presence of drama in a reality show is a given but when it comes to Opening Act, there’s way more drama than there should be. The show is supposed to be about exposing hidden talent, not exposing every single struggle in life they’ve ever had to the public. Major musical developments screech to a halt during boot camp and instead, the contestant is shown working on self-esteem issues, confidence issues and the list goes on. While people appreciate the fact that this exposes the barriers that a person has to overcome on the road to fame, people need to be given more time to appreciate the talent too. Otherwise, it just becomes an extra “five minutes of fame” for the already-famous judges and music act that the contestants will be opening for. This explains why none of the contestants so far have actually become a “somebody from nobody” that the show so enthusiastically promised. Aside from an increased number of YouTube views after appearing on the show, they’ve not been heard from much lately.
It’s just an opening act
Lots of famous artists have started out as mere opening acts for others but this does not seem to work for a reality show. The reason for this is that artists who usually make it big later on are already signed on to established music companies who can give them the push required to make these artists more than just an opening act. Given the angle of this particular reality show however, it relies more on the satisfaction in being on the same stage as a superstar and then stops there. There is no big push after the show ends to allow the acts to achieve their won stardom. While the satisfaction is indeed great (as one can tell from the huge smiles and sometimes, tears, plastered all over the contestants’ faces), it is limited in scope and one can’t help but feel that these contestants are being made use of to market the show and then being tossed aside later on.
Opening Act is not a total disaster, of course. The contestants featured really are very talented and they have indeed been given more exposure. However, the level of this exposure is far below what was promised to them and to us in the show’s marketing campaign. Some of the contestants’ personal struggles are dealt with and it’s great to watch them get out their shells. Many viewers will most definitely enjoy watching their videos on YouTube too. But this is where it stops. As with a lot of reality shows, it’s more about the idea of the show and the commercial value than about actually finding talent and making their dreams come true. We’re left waiting for that “somebody from nobody” moment.